A COMPANY boss shouted “what a crock of sh**” as the former employee who drained his firm of £28,000 was spared prison.

Over 12 months, Helen Spencer systematically stole thousands of pounds from Swindon recovery firm Scorpion Engineering by creating false invoices or “double paying” – with sums going to both creditors and bank accounts under her control.

Prosecutor David Maunder told the court the thefts were discovered in January 2020, when a member of staff noticed a double payment of £1,400 to company ND Services. The sum had been paid on December 10, 2019, then again on December 27, with the money paid into Spencer’s daughter’s bank account on one occasion.

Spencer, who was employed by the business from 2017, eventually admitted her error to bosses, although claimed it had been accidental.

The company’s managing director insisted on a full audit of payments, spending two days going through the accounts with HSBC.

It was claimed that £41,298-worth of fraudulent payments had been identified. The defendant admitted to stealing around £28,500.

She was interviewed and, despite saying to officers she wanted to tell “her side of the story”, maintained her silence on the advice of her solicitor. She claimed she had been contacted by her former boss. She said: “It looks like I’m a dirty thief but it wasn’t like that.”

In a victim personal statement read to the court by the managing director of Scorpion Engineering Ltd, it was said that the firm had taken out a £50,000 loan to cover the money that was stolen. The theft had had a “huge impact” both financially and emotionally on the small family firm.

Rob Ross, mitigating, said his client had given birth just two weeks ago. She had been battling a number of issues in her life at the time, including a debilitating alcohol addiction.

He said: “There were a lot of reasons why she took the money and many of those have nothing whatsoever to do with Scorpion Engineering. She was in a very, very bad place at the time.”

Spencer was remorseful and had no previous convictions.

Judge Jason Taylor QC said: “I well understand the hurt and frustration all feel at – quite frankly – your deceit.

“Your behaviour was systematic, planned and prolonged.”

But he suspended the 15 month prison sentence for two years, saying: “Notwithstanding the dramatic effect that your actions have had on this small family business, who are understandably angry at your duplicitous and devious behaviour, the reality is this sentence is in the range where it is suspendable.” The sentence could be suspended because of Spencer’s strong personal mitigation and the impact on her young baby.

Spencer, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to theft. She was ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work, 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days, pay £3,000 compensation and abide by a nine month curfew.

The director of Scorpion Engineering who had earlier read out the victim personal statement shouted “what a crock of sh**” at the end of the hearing.